Why brokers’ attempts to woo agents fall flat

Realtor Notebook

The recruiting emails and postcards continue to arrive in my mailbox and inbox from a variety of real estate companies.

Business is better now, and let’s face it: The brokerage with the most agents selling real estate wins.

Most are offering low fees and "cutting-edge technology." That can’t really compete with what I have now, which is free (or at least cheap) cutting-edge technology, and NO fees.

Low fees and free technology doesn’t seem like an unusual, or even an attractive, value proposition. It doesn’t make me want to run out and sign up. But that is how several brokerages advertise themselves to me.

I have been asked a few times what kind of technology would attract me to a brokerage. Technology alone wouldn’t do it because, to be honest, most of what I use is fairly common and readily available.

The entire time I have been in the real estate I have provided my own mobile phone, computers, tablets computers and cars. I have never heard of any brokerage that supplied those items to their independent contractor agents — which is really too bad, because those are things we really need.

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Providing access to group health insurance would give any brokerage a killer advantage for recruiting agents. But apparently that isn’t possible, or someone would have tried it by now.

A steady stream of qualified buyers and sellers would always be welcome. But for some reason, brokerages don’t actually have clients. They have brands. Agents have clients, and they follow us from brand to brand.

The most important thing that most brokerages provide is the broker. Most licensees need a broker if they want to sell real estate.

If a brokerage were to provide technology, here is some of the technology I would like to have. I can get everything else through our MLS:

1. A premium Evernote account.

2. A premium Dropbox account.

3. A WordPress theme of my choosing with free installation to the host of my choice.

4 Free hosting for my blog, or website, or multiple sites. (I would, of course, use own my own domain names and back up my sites.)

5. Free data plan for my iPad.

6. A Google account.

Add to that free coffee that doesn’t come from a can, china coffee cups, and a nicely appointed conference room with a big table and a projector and screen, which would give me an excuse to come into the office.

As long as it is close to where I work, and they let me bring my bike inside, or provide a rack for it.

There was a time when I would have loved some clerical support, but today there is very little paperwork.

Help with marketing listings would be appreciated. Someone to set up the Web page for a new listing, create the fliers, order the sign, set up the showing system, and take care of the long list of tasks that go with a new listing.

I don’t know any brokerage that provides those kinds of services — or professional photography services.

I can almost hear the laughter. Many brokerages do not even pay for signs and lockboxes. They will provide email accounts and Web pages, and suites of software designed to help franchise owners or the corporate office to manage the bottom line.

Brokerages often provide office space and some of it is very nice. My office is at home, and it is a corner office with a private entrance. It is nice enough, but I would not describe any part of my home as opulent.

I never get lonely. I spend time with clients in homes and in meetings, and there are two coffee shops that are less than a block away from my home that offer free Wi-Fi.

I belong to a local collaborative and I can go there to work most any time. There are no other real estate agents there, but for me that is part of the attraction.

My clients are well aware of how I work, and where I work. None of them care. Most want my help buying or selling real estate. None of that happens in an office.

It kind of makes me wonder if some brokerages know they are not the best, so they market themselves as the least expensive.

Agents, does your brokerage offer anything special, or is it all about low fees and free technology?

Brokers, what is your value proposition? How will you get agents to join your brand?

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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